Ex-Vatican envoy gets five-year prison term for child porn

Carlo Capella's case is the first time on record that the Vatican has convicted one of its own former diplomats for crimes involving sexual abuse of minors.
Carlo Capella's case is the first time on record that the Vatican has convicted one of its own former diplomats for crimes involving sexual abuse of minors.PHOTO: REUTERS

VATICAN CITY • A former Holy See envoy to Washington has been sentenced to a five-year prison term for viewing and sharing child pornography, the first time on record that the Vatican has convicted one of its own former diplomats for such crimes.

The punishment handed down to Monsignor Carlo Capella last Saturday, which included a fine of €5,000 (S$7,920), was just shy of the five year, nine-month term that prosecutors requested.

The code of this city-state calls for imprisonment of up to five years for possessing and distributing child pornography, but says penalties can increase if a "considerable quantity" of material is involved.

"The mistakes that I have made are clear," Capella said in a statement just before his sentencing, where he said his interest in child pornography came during a period of emotional "weakness".

The two-day trial brought quick closure to a case in which he was recalled from Washington last year after the Vatican rebuffed a US attempt to drop diplomatic immunity.

Capella, who also faced charges in Canada, will serve his sentence in a cell within the Vatican police barracks. He could also be removed from the priesthood in an upcoming canonical trial.

The Vatican has been embroiled for decades in a global scandal involving the sexual abuse of minors, but this was the first time in modern history that a sentence had been reached in its own tribunal in a trial of its kind. The hearings lasted less than four hours in total.

The judges took just over an hour to arrive at a verdict.

Capella had not contested the charges against him, and during the first hearing, last Friday, he admitted to "compulsive acts of improper Internet consultations" of photographs, videos and manga cartoons showing adolescent minors engaged in sexually explicit acts.

He told the court that he had been going through a personal crisis because he was unhappy to have been transferred to the Holy See's embassy in Washington.

A police investigator said during the trial that he had found several dozen files - photographs, drawings and videos - on Capella's electronic devices, including footage of a small child in an explicit sexual act.

Capella remained impassive when presiding judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre read out the sentence, according to reporters in the courthouse inside the Vatican City.

WASHINGTON POST, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2018, with the headline 'Ex-Vatican envoy gets five-year prison term for child porn'. Print Edition | Subscribe